Recently several ESTEEM students who have been accepted into the Venture Founders Program had the opportunity to meet with City of South Bend representatives. Santiago Garces ("Santi") and Brian Donoghue from the Mayor's Office of Innovation heard from Claire Kleinschmidt, Natalie May, Thomas Cotter, and Arielle Gannon about the problem areas they are researching.
Santi, who graduated from ESTEEM in 2012, asked each of the students to talk about the "pain points" they had identified and then he engaged with them about ways they could take apart the problem, sharing with the students insights he had as one of South Bend's Mayor Pete Buttigieg's key advisers.
There are a lot of cities like South Bend, Santi said. There are not many New Yorks or Chicagos, but there are a lot of small cities that share the challenges and opportunities faced by South Bend. Much of what the City is trying to do is concentrated in the areas of transportation, childcare, workforce issues (job availability, training, etc.) and healthcare. The City is also concerned with the specific problems of opoid use and lead paint poisoning.
These problem areas overlap in some way with what the Venture Founders are digging into: food and nutrition insecurity, gaps in services or employment challenges for people with autism, and the struggle families experience in finding quality and consistent childcare.
After the meeting the students spent some time gathered around a whiteboard collecting their ideas and brainstorming their next steps -- the discussion was another example of how ESTEEM students are encouraged to "get out of the building" and "fix things that matter."